by Sándor Gyula NAGY, Deputy Director of Research, Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade
A significant part of the Brazilian voters did not want to vote for the candidate (Fernando Haddad) of the party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) that ruled the country in 14 out of the last 16 years. During this time, the party allowed corruption to flourish as well as the free flow of violence and crime on the streets. Jair Bolsonaro, who has made good use of the country's anti-elite atmosphere and maintained an active campaign in social media, has steadily improved his popularity since the spring of 2018, and led the competition in the polls. The physical attack aginst him by knife only further increased the number of sympathy votes for him. Naturally, he used this consciously in the middle of the campaign period: he posted photos and videos in social media from the hospital.
The prospects for Brazil are not as depressing as the press or some experts predict. Bolsonaro has already announced that he will designate Sergio Moro for the Minister of Justice, whose prime task will be the complete extermination of corruption in the country. He is a judge known as "Lava Jato", who investigated a corruption case involving the Petrobras energy company. The Ministry of Economics will be formed by merging several existing ministries. Paulo Guedes was already designated Chief Advisor earlier this year. He is a well-known and experienced expert in the business and academic sectors and will likely lead the newly established ministry. The candidate for the post of the Defense Minister is General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, former leader of Brazilian peacekeepers stationing in Haiti.
The actions of Bolsonaro's foreign policy are clearly aligned with Donald Trump's activity, which he has already spoken of with admiration during the campaign. The first such gesture was the announcement of the transfer of the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem (which was warmly welcomed by the Israeli government). Another common point was Bolsonaro's response to the Chinese expansion: “Some countries may shop in Brazil, but Brazil is not for sale.” This statement is a clear sign of the support of Trump's anti-Beijing protective trade policy. The problem is that nearly one fifth of the Brazilian exported goods are currently sold in China. Although the agricultural and industrial sectors supported Bolsonaro in his campaign significantly, the absence of these purchases can affect them badly. This may be the reason why, after his election, Bolsonaro has repeatedly made friendly statements and hosted Chinese business delegations.
The new President, who took office on January 1, 2019, also wants to take action against Venezuela and Cuba, the countries that were the leading figures of the Bolivarian Revolution. As a first step, he wants to send home Cuban doctors (11,420 people) who have maintained a medical mission since the presidency of Lua. As a result of this program, Havana earns hundreds of millions of dollars (may be billions) every year. Bolsonaro does not like the fact that the Cuban regime is financed by Brazilian money. However, he does not have a clear answer for the replacement of more than ten thousand doctors overnight. The next step is to close the Brazilian Embassy in Havana. In response, Cuba began the withdrawal of the doctors with a private airplane. Meanwhile Bolsonaro offered political asylum and jobs to all the remaining Cuban doctors.
As for Venezuela, Bolsonaro wants to join the economic sanctions of the European Union and the United States, acting against the dictatorial behavior of the Maduro regime in violation of human rights. At the same time, he remains a debtor in dealing with the ever-increasing refugee crisis. However, a change in foreign policy (and foreign trade) can be useful for the regional economic integration called MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market). Therefore, enhanced cooperation or deepened integration of Bratil is possible with Argentina, a country with open-minded and market-friendly economic policy, led by Mauricio Macri.